Vietnam has an incredibly rich history, stretching back thousands of years (evidence of human habitation have been found in caves in the north of the country dating to around 500,000 BC). The nation's unfolding story has seen frequent struggles against oppressors (Chinese, French), as well as the Vietnam War, which saw the unification of North and South Vietnam in 1975. Naturally, such a vivid historical backdrop means that Vietnam has countless cultural and artistic treasures for visitors to experience, with artefacts collected in various museums and galleries.
War Remnants Museum
While Vietnam has enjoyed peace and prosperity for a long time, over the years it has suffered from its fair share of strife. This museum, situated in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh City, depicts the North Vietnamese side of the Vietnam War (the lengthy conflict which most westerners have only ever seen through the eyes of American filmmakers). On a cautionary note, as well as US military equipment and cages used to house political prisoners, there are graphic photographic montages showing the effects of chemical warfare. Included is notable work by the Vietnamese war photographer Bunyo Ishikawa. However, the museum is incredibly popular, attracting some half a million visitors through its doors per annum (of whom about two-thirds are foreign).
Can Tho Museum
Located in Can Tho on the Mekong Delta (Vietnam's fourth-largest city), this museum holds over 5,000 historical artefacts. Amongst its exhibits are a traditional teahouse, as well as a lifelike tableau of the work of a herbalist. Anyone visiting this venue will get a glimpse into Vietnam's distant past, with exhibitions relating to ancient Khymer settlement, as well as the contributions made by Ming refugees from China. A lifesize pagoda is amongst other memorable exhibits.
Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts
Regarded as Vietnam's principle arts museum, fine arts are displayed representing every historical period during Vietnam's evolution. It is located in Hanoi, in a former Catholic girl's boarding house (built in the 1930s for the daughters of high-ranking officers), next door to an artists' colony. Amongst the museum's diverse exhibits are paintings, lacquers and ceramic art, dating from both the post-war period and back to feudal times. The fact that a lot of stock was damaged during the Vietnam War means some displays are merely faithful reproductions of the originals. Tours though the museum are available in both English and French.
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Hanoi also houses this museum, dedicated to the life of the revolutionary Vietnamse leader Ho Chi Minh. Built in the 1990s, it is an impressive contemporary structure, complete with 'Uncle Ho's' mausoleum. The exhibits trace an overview of the man's leadership and his part in Vietnam's struggles for independence since the 1940s. The extensive grounds are perfect for enjoying tranquil walks.